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Legislature passes bill prohibiting release of mug shots until conviction

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, opens the Utah Legislature's 2021 general session in the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY– A bill that would ban police departments from publicly releasing mug shots until the suspect is convicted sailed through the Utah House and Senate this week, heading to Gov. Spencer Cox for his signature. 

Under HB228, photos taken by the police after someone is arrested would become a protected record that can’t be shared with the public or media outlets. Exceptions could be made if the person is convicted of the crime, a judge orders their release or the suspect poses an “imminent threat.” 

The legislation has been met with both support and opposition. 

Groups like Black Lives Matter Utah supported the bill, citing instances in which mug shots portraying people of color in news outlets can result in unfair criticisms. 

News outlets, on the other hand, oppose the statute. Members of the Utah Media Coalition testified in a public hearing earlier this month, arguing news organizations are capable of self-regulation and don’t publish every mug shot they receive. 

The bill was signed by both the Utah House Speaker and Senate President Thursday. Now, it heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.

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